Including Pets in Protection Orders

During a 2005 workshop on the link between animal cruelty and human violence held in Maine, some judges and participants noted that they were confused about the legal ability to include companion animals in “protection from abuse” orders for battered spouses and families. This lack of clarity allows abusers to continue to use companion animals as pawns to further intimidate and control family members. Maine was the first state to pass legislation to allow pets to be included in protection orders. Pet abuse is part of family violence, and protection orders need to protect all members of the family - be they two-legged, four-legged or other. Currently 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have such laws.

Even if your state does not have a specific provision, most state Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs) contain language that gives courts discretion to permit additional orders. For example, a court can order pets to be included in a TRO, just as they can provide for the temporary care of children or possession of property. Bond conditions also can include pets. And a TRO can authorize law enforcement to assist with the removal of a pet from a home.

For a list of states with laws that include pets in Temporary Restraining Orders, please go to the website maintained by the Animal Legal and Historical Center at Michigan State University College of Law, "Domestic Violence and Pets: List of States that Include Pets in Protection Orders."

Click here for a model state law for including animals in domestic violence protection orders.